If you are a college student studying journalism, you are probably keenly aware that the job outlook for reporters is not particularly rosy. In fact, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics in its 2010 update of employment trends has forecast a 6 percent drop in the number of journalism jobs through 2020. That is because print media is fading and broadcast media is being upstaged or complemented by online media. In any case, if you are studying journalism all hope is not lost: your skills can be useful online or through a related industry.
Reporters bring new stories to the public, through print or online publications or by broadcast. These professionals are trained to find a story, interview people and create a fact-based story for wider dissemination. A reporter will give background information and discuss details related to a particular incident or event.
As a reporter, you will be given assignments, evaluate leads or follow up on tips in a bid to develop stories. You will need to gather information, perform research, work with other reporters, write copy and review same. Reporters answer to an editor and may work as part of a team or alone. Working on and meeting deadlines is a critical part of the reporter’s daily tasks.
According to the BLS, reporters typically have a least some college education. Approximately two-thirds have a bachelor’s degree with nearly one-quarter of all reporters possessing a master’s degree.
Skills that reporters must develop while in college include mastering the English language with an excellent command of spelling, word usage and grammar. Students may be active listeners, taking notes and asking questions clearly and with authority. Strong critical thinking capabilities, reading comprehension and empathy can benefit the reporter. Time management skills, familiarity with contemporary technologies and problem-solving abilities are important traits of the successful reporter.
Reporters typically study journalism while in college or may major in English with a concentration in journalism. Students may work at the college newspaper and may intern with a newspaper, a magazine, a broadcast company or other news media company. Employers put a premium on job candidates that are experienced.
Many reporters specialize in a particular area of expertise. At a newspaper, for example, the reporter might be a features writer, a sports reporter or a columnist. Reporters working for a small newspaper may wear several hats while those employed by large city newspapers may be cover one issue. Columnists, also known as commentators, express an opinion based on their interpretation of the news.
As of 2010, the BLS reports that there were 58,500 individuals working as reporters, correspondents and broadcast new analysts. The average or median salary for reporters and correspondents was $34,530 in May 2010 with a salary range of $19,970 for those in the 10th percentile to $75,230 for those in the 90th percentile.
With an industry in decline, reporters can also consider other options such as working an announcer, as an editor, a postsecondary teacher, as a public relations manager or specialist or as a writer. The median pay in these fields varies with announcers earning $27,010 per year to technical writers making $63,280 per year. Most other jobs offer median salaries that are in the middle of this range.
Students pursuing a degree in journalism or mass communication may find it advantageous to take classes at colleges and universities that are recognized by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. As of this writing, the ACEJMC accredits 109 programs. Such accreditation provides the support students may need to purse a job with a recognized media outlet. It can also benefit the student looking at a career in a similar field.
Amanda Greene is Brand Manager at RHL, premiere online supplier of dorm room bedding.
Media courtesy of Bartlomiej Stroinski.